How Black-owned businesses suffered during pandemic, per UW study

In many cities, campaigns to label “black-owned” restaurants have led to long-term declines in visitor numbers, new research shows.

SEATTLE — New research from the University of Washington found that restaurants identified as “black-owned” saw a drop in visits in 2020 compared to those with no label.

“Long term, particularly in the latter months of 2020, Black-owned businesses declined faster than restaurants that disclosed ownership,” said Bo Zhao, associate professor of geography at the University of Washington, who led the study through his Humanistic headed GIS laboratory.

In 2020, several companies launched “black-owned” labeling campaigns. They were designed to help clients support Black owned businesses. But the study, released Monday by the University of Washington, says there are statistically significant differences between black-owned and “unreported” restaurants.

Zhao said his team looked at geographic information from 45 million cellphones in 20 cities. What they saw was that most Black-owned restaurants saw an initial surge in business early in the labeling campaign, but data shows visits to Black-owned labeled restaurants declined faster than in many cities in the later months of 2020 in places where the property was not. not reported.

New Orleans and Detroit showed the largest declines, while New York showed the smallest. Seattle’s chart showed multiple ups and downs, which Zhao said suggests the difference between the two isn’t significant enough to draw a conclusion.

Zhao wants the study to draw the attention of tech companies that have launched these labeling campaigns. He sees an opportunity for a tech company to think critically about how it supports the Black community.

“It can definitely be improved, be more helpful if we think about the consequences more critically, and also let the community of color know about the consequences,” said Zhao, “There is a lot of room for improvement on the part of technology companies, but also everyone.”

The study further found that although a restaurant can choose not to select a label, it can still be labeled as “Black-owned” based on previous online reviews. Zhao said a complete opt-out is not an option. How Black-owned businesses suffered during pandemic, per UW study

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